MOM bars marine firm from hiring foreigners

MOM bars marine firm from hiring foreigners
Prime Gold International’s registered office yesterday showed no sign of the firm in operation.

SINGAPORE - A Singapore marine company has been barred from hiring foreign workers for two years because it discriminated against Singaporeans. The ban on Prime Gold International was imposed after it was found "to have retrenched Singaporeans unfairly", said Ministry of Manpower (MOM) director Roslyn Ten-Kong yesterday.

The company had laid off 13 Singaporeans and hired foreigners in their place. The Singaporeans were working as ship captains, officers, engineers and seamen. The ban is a first by MOM since it set up a department in August to probe complaints that bosses prefer foreigners over Singaporeans.

Ms Ten-Kong led the investigation of the company after MOM received complaints in June from some of the retrenched employees, the ministry said. The company told MOM that the workers were asked to go because it was running at a loss and they had become redundant.

It also cited other reasons, such as poor work performance and inadequate qualifications. These reasons, however, were not substantiated, said MOM in its statement.

It also noted that Prime Gold's unfair actions "denied Singaporeans fair opportunities for employment and career development". The company's move also "affects the livelihood of Singaporeans already in employment", it added.

The ban reflects the seriousness of the infringement, the ministry said, adding that it had investigated more than 100 companies so far for posting discriminatory job advertisements.

The MOM, however, declined to disclose when the two-year ban started. But the company can renew the work passes of its existing foreign workers, the MOM told The Straits Times.

A check on company records shows Prime Gold, set up in August 2008, is wholly owned by permanent resident Zheng Yulin.

Neither the company nor its owner could be reached for comment yesterday.

When The Straits Times visited the company's registered address at an industrial building off Upper Paya Lebar Road yesterday, there was no sign of the company in operation and the door was locked.

The Singapore Maritime Officers' Union "strongly supports MOM clamping down on errant employers that are out to exploit Singaporeans", said its general secretary Mary Liew.

She is a former Nominated MP who is a member of the NTUC's central committee, the labour movement's top decision-making body. Her union represents one of the retrenched workers.

Member of Parliament Zainudin Nordin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said the ban is a warning to companies. "There is always a grey area between justifiable retrenchment and unfair sacking. But this case sends a very clear signal to firms that the MOM will not tolerate those who exploit the loopholes," he said.

Labour MP Zainal Sapari said the move will assure Singaporean workers that "as long as they have the right skills and experience, they will be considered fairly for jobs, and their complaints will be investigated". He added: "MOM did the right thing."

tohyc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 30, 2014.
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